We learned today of the plight since we were last here in 2000 of one of the neighbor families here in Anhai.

A few years back, the Chinese stock markets were on fire, and some people were becoming quick millionaires on paper. Some members of this neighbor family were apparently quite adept at picking stocks. Word of their success spread quickly, and soon other people in town were entrusting them with their investments–just with a handshake, mind you. No contracts or risk clauses in the mix, and they were just doing this “as a favor” and for a slight “administrative fee.”

Things went well for awhile, but then their luck ran out and–long story short–they suddenly owed these other people cumulatively over 1 million Chinese Yuan, about $124,000.00 U.S. dollars. Unfortunately, they didn’t exactly have this on hand, and things grew tense as the “investors” began demanding their money back.

One morning the town woke up to find the family gone, fled for parts unknown. Only then did the local authorities get involved, but they simply padlocked the home’s front gate and doors. Maybe to prevent looting?

But this is an industrious, cunning, entrepreneurial town, this Anhai, so ere long some people had cut the locks, maybe with an “administrative fee” to the police to look the other way, took unofficial possession of the home, and began renting out the rooms and floors to other people, with proceeds going back into a fund to repay the investment debts.

Of course the new self-appointed landlords are keeping an “administrative fee” for themselves, and so the economy here continues to spin.